A Beautiful, Drama-Free Evening with Ray LaMontagne

All Photography by Mike Mauger

Let’s play a fun game.  Think of what you know of Ray LaMontagne.  Got it?  Great.  Now think of what you know by My Morning Jacket?  All set?  Great.  Now what would you get if you put them together and create a little musical baby?

Well, if your answer was an illuminating, transient musical experience reminiscent of Pink Floyd, then you were right.  Now…  if that wasn’t your answer, then you were wrong.  But the good news is that Ray LaMontagne / My Morning Jacket music baby actually exists, and even if you missed the show at Festival Pier on Saturday night, you can still check out the album, Ouroboros, and find out what you’ve been missing.

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Now, I wouldn’t be doing my “job” as a “music journalist” if I didn’t mention the elephant in the room.  That is, as I prepared for my first Ray LaMontagne concert, I was nervous.  I was nervous that he’d have a meltdown or freak out at someone in the audience as has been documented at a few LaMontagne shows in a few years.  (I won’t link to any stories.  You can google it yourself.  But it happened.  It may or may not have been warranted.  But hopefully, and seemingly, that’s all in the past.).  The fact is, Saturday night seemed ripe for it.  It was a gorgeous day.  The sun was out.  Slight breeze.  Barely a cloud.  And the show was at Festival Pier, a relatively large outdoors venue known more for its raucous party atmosphere than a listening-room vibe.  And if there’s one thing Ray LaMontagne hates, it’s a disruptive audience.  Oh… and it’s Philly, so… that doesn’t help.

Then I found out LaMontagne was opening his show with a solo acoustic set before his full band set backed by a Jim James-less My Morning Jacket.  And I was terrified.

Please… please let us not make news.  Please let LaMontagne actually like Philly.

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But the show went off without a hitch.

Wandering through the back of the crowd at Festival Pier, I noticed the volume during his acoustic set was so low that I could barely hear it.  I have to think that was a conscious effort to make the audience shut up.  And for the most part, they did.

In fact, LaMontagne seemed to even appreciate a cheery rendition of “Happy Birthday” from the front row that even garnered an applause from the entire crowd.

LaMontagne, a notoriously private artist, even took the time to tell a story about how Philly musician, Amos Lee, surprised LaMontagne by picking up his entire crew’s tab at a local restaurant, Helm, just the night before.

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Maybe it was the weather.  Maybe it was the music.  Maybe it was the people.  Whatever it was, all the elements came together perfectly on Saturday night for an incredible evening of music that I won’t soon forget.

If you missed it, be sure to check out LaMontagne’s album, recorded with My Morning Jacket.  Check out the full setlist here.  And of course, check out a full photo gallery below.

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